Figuring out which players make a roster when it is still three months before training camp is often a waste of time. Sometimes it doesn't take long for coaches and front offices to reach decisions on somebody, even as early as rookie minicamp. In the past, the Chicago Bears have dipped deep into the undrafted pool for possible help on their roster. From time to time they come away with a few bargains. James Brown made the team last year and finished the season at left guard. Dane Sanzenbacher made a small splash back in 2011 and seemed poised for good things before Cutler broke his thumb. That same year Dom DeCicco came in and has since become a solid special teams player. Other teams have enjoyed even greater success mining the undrafted market. It's just a question whether the Bears are willing to take a chance. Their current crop of players certainly hold some interesting nuggets.
Perhaps the most intriguing are the wide receivers. A lot of experts expected Rutgers receiver Mark Harrison to go somewhere in the middle rounds. Looking at him it's easy to understand why. The kid is a mammoth receiver, standing 6'3" with 35-inch arms. He posted a 4.46 at the combine, thrives after the catch, run blocks well and became a force for the Red Knights in the red zone. What held him back was inconsistent hands, limited production and an incident involving a trashed hotel room. The other receiver is Josh Lenz out of Iowa State. A lot of people don't know about him because his production with the team was never that great. However, there are some interesting notes that could signal a playmaker in waiting. His yards per catch numbers increased every year since his freshman season, going from 9.3 to 14.8. He went from scoring two touchdowns in 2010 and 2011 to scoring six in 2012. He's thrown two passes as a college player, both for scores. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him is his workout numbers. Lenz posted a 4.36 dash at his pro day, along with a 38.5 inch vertical leap. That is better than most of the receivers in the draft. He's 5'11" so size isn't a big problem. An interesting side note? His questionable numbers in 2012 were because he only played ten games. Don't be surprised if both receivers make the roster.
Out of the remaining free agents, the ones to eye are on the defensive side. N.C. State cornerback C.J. Wilson will command lots of attention. Just shy of six feet tall, he posted a 4.34 dash and a 37-inch vertical jump at his pro day. He started 31 games for his team, played in three bowl games, and snagged four interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. The kid measures out as an NFL corner but likely wasn't drafted because of a four-game suspension last season for not completing a required amount of credit hours for school. Family issues were cited as the reason. Given the Bears' need for young corners after not drafting any, his chances are very good. The other player of note is defensive tackle Brent Russell from Georgia Southern. Chicago has good talent at the top with Henry Melton and Stephen Paea but not enough depth behind them. Russell doesn't have the best size, but overcomes it with power and intensity. He's also surprisingly agile, showing an affinity to shoot gaps against the run and pass. The big issue with him is size. He must try to top the 300-pound mark in order to withstand battling NFL offensive linemen.
The 2013 NFL season is months away, so there is plenty of time for the Chicago Bears roster to undergo more changes. It likely will take until well into the preseason in August for any of these young men to turn some heads. Even so if they can match production to their impressive physical traits there is a chance they all join the quest for a playoff run this year.